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Software Review: Adobe Master Collection – After Effects CS6 From Adobe Systems

This is the fourth of a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the Adobe CS6 Master Collection. Adobe releases CS6 with four separate suites of products. They are Design Standard, Design & Web Premium, Production Premium, Master Collection. Add to that, they a have also have the Creative Cloud – a subscription based suite that gives you access to all of the individual products for a $49.99 per month subscription fee. You can go online to compare what is contained in each version. The goal of this series is to define what each product does and provide information of what the new version brings to the table.


Adobe After Effects is digital motion graphics and compositing software that is used by motion graphic designers, visual artists, and video editors. It can be used in both film and video post-production. It uses a system of layers organized on a timeline to create composites from still images and motion footage such as from video files.

It has become the industry standard for visual effects and motion graphics because it offers flexible tools that can be used to prepare dynamic media. It integrates well with other tools used in the industry. You can find imagery created in After Effects in everything from motion pictures to cell phones to websites.

So what is new with After Effects CS6?


• Global Performance Cache – takes the form of improvements that are “under the hood’. These changes make Adobe After Effects more responsive than ever before. By taking advantage of the improved hardware capabilities as well as through the use of a global RAM cache, a persistent disk cache, and a new graphics pipe line, After Effects gives you the ability to continue to work while other portions render. It now contains a vastly improved frame caching system that allows you to reuse elements or play “what if” with various ideas without having to wait for a previously created frame to re-render. If you want, you can now try a new idea, and then undo if you don’t like it, without any penalty in productivity. What really happens is that – with some bearing on the amount of memory in your system, any frame of a composition or layer inside of an After Effects project that has not changed, is not re-rendered. Through the use of a persistent disk cache, when you reopen a project, the previously rendered cache is still intact. Finally, through the use of a new graphics pipeline, After Effects CS6 is better able to harnesses OpenGL and the video card in your computer when drawing images to the screen resulting in overall speed increase of 1.5 to 2.5 times.

• 3D Camera Tracker – effect automatically analyzes the motion present in 2D footage then computes the position, orientation, and field of view of the real camera that shot the scene and then will create a new 3D camera in After Effects to match. What this means is that 3D layers have the same movement and perspective changes as the original footage, allowing you to insert new objects into existing scenes with relative ease. This is great for both augmenting reality with visuals as well as when creating new realities with motion graphics. The 3D Camera Tracker can also make intelligent decisions about analyzing your footage unassisted, or you also have the option to enter data about the original shot for even more precise results. This works in a similar way that Warp Stabilizer worked in CS5.5.


• Fully ray-traced extruded text and shapes – gives you new capabilities when working with renders. There is a new ray-traced 3D rendering engine that allows you to simply and quickly design fully ray-traced, geometric text and shape layers in 3D space. These enhanced 3D capabilities include the ability for beveled and extruded text and shape layers, adding depth to graphic designs without compromising animations, bending of footage and composition layers, adding dimension and yielding more interesting lighting effects for otherwise flat content, environment map support, for photorealistic reflections of virtual imagery in addition to the layers included in a composition, and more. It is available as an alternative to the scanline-based “Classic” 3D composition renderer that has been available for several versions.

• Variable Mask Feathering – provides the ability to define a virtually unlimited number of points along a closed mask as well as defining the width of the feather at each point. This means some sections such as hard metallic edges can remain sharp, while other sections that are out of focus or otherwise blurred may have a softer outline which provides more flexibility than ever before.

• Tight integration with Adobe Illustrator – now means that you can create complex text layouts, logos, and other graphic elements in Illustrator and then After Effects has the ability to integrate them much more seamlessly. After Effects CS6 has a Create Shapes From Vector Layer command to convert any Illustrator vector-based artwork—including AI and EPS files—into After Effects shape layers. As a result, you can make changes as simple as tweaking the fill and stroke color or as complex as editing the shape’s individual vertices without leaving After Effects.

• Rolling Shutter repair – fixes a problem that comes from some of the more modern DSLR cameras that now shoot video. It is commonly known as a “rolling” shutter, which captures a frame of video one scan line at a time. Due to time lag between scan lines, not all parts of the image are recorded at exactly the same time, causing motion to ripple down the frame. Now, After Effects CS6 includes an advanced Rolling Shutter Repair effect that contains two different user-selectable algorithms to help fix problematic footage.

• Enhanced effects – now include over 80 new and updated built-in effects. They begin with the inclusion of the CycoreFX HD Suite. In contrast to the 8-bit-per-channel CycoreFX previously bundled with After Effects, all 73 of the HD plug-ins – including such popular effects as CC Sphere and CC Gradient Wipe – support 16-bit-per-channel color – 35 of them support 32-bit floating point for maximum dynamic range. The CycoreFX HD Suite also includes effects not previously bundled with After Effects,
such as Cross Blur, Color Neutralizer, Kernel, Threads, Environment, Rainfall, Snowfall, Block Load, Plastic, Line Sweep, WarpoMatic, and Overbrights. There are other enhancements such as support for motion blur and a composition’s 3D lights in the relevant CycoreFX effects.


• Pro import After Effects – is an industry-leading integration solution that lets you easily import into After Effects and work with Avid Media Composer and Symphony AAF/OMF files, as well as with XML files from Apple Final Cut Pro 7 or earlier versions. Previously available as a separate product from Automatic Duck, Pro Import After Effects is included with After Effects CS6.

• Improved mocha AE workflow – The professional 2.5D planar tracking and rotoscoping tool mocha AE from Imagineer Systems continues to be bundled with After Effects. Additionally, After Effects CS6 now includes a Track In mocha AE menu command that lets you launch mocha AE directly from within After Effects, so you can immediately begin working with the per-vertex feathering and other masking tools available in mocha AE as well as in mocha shape.

• Other Enhancements – include dozens of features and refinements to existing features. For After Effects CS6 these include Re-engineered use of OpenGL for real-time interactive draft rendering, making After Effects even more responsive, finer control over composition objects via new bounding box controls, numerous scripting language additions and improvements, including support for the new Variable Mask Feathering feature, the ability to import ARRIRAW footage from ARRIFLEX D-21 or ALEXA digital cameras, and native support for Adobe SpeedGrade .Look files, cineSpace .csp files, and overrange IRIDAS .cube files.


The first thing that I found that was so great about Adobe After Effects CS6 was the caching ability. In prior versions you would have to just wait for it to render. Now you can cache on one project while working on another. What I also like is the fact that once you do a full render, when you change things, it only has to render what was changed – even if you save and come back in at a later time!

Another powerful feature is the integration with Illustrator and the ability to adjust attributes directly from within After Effects without having to return to Illustrator – another big time saver. Then there is the Ray-traced 3D rendering engine. The capabilities are much more accurate and it is so much more powerful than the one that came with CS5.5 – which is still available and now known as the classic renderer.


Then there is the 3D Camera Tracker which can build a virtual camera inside of imported footage while automatically figuring out how the original camera tracked and how it relates to the scene. As in the images above, you can take multiple monitors and overdub other sequences on to each one and as the camera in the scene moves the added sequences stay in step.

When you add the feathered soft edge to masked shapes, Rolling Shutter artifacts adjustments, import abilities, new effects, and all of the other improvements, what you have is a major winner with Adobe After Effects CS6. Whether you are considering a new purchase or an upgrade, I very highly recommend this product.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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